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Office 365 Migration Options and Planning

Apr 29, 2020 by Becci Velzian

Office 365 migration options being discussed by a group of IT pros.

Earlier in the year, at Microsoft Ignite London, our Director of Enterprise Migrations, Mike Weaver, and Product Manager, Doug Davis, were guests on the All About 365 podcast.

Alongside hosts Steve Goodman and Jason Wynn, they discussed Before and After Migrating to Office 365 – what should you consider?, and in this article, we’re going to examine the questions IT teams commonly raise when reviewing Office 365 migration options.

Mike Weaver – otherwise known as ‘MAD Mike’ owing to his extensive Merger, Acquisition and Divestiture work – will talk from experience about what happens when engaging with a new client who is migrating to Office 365, and the investigation process to discover problems they’re going to hit early on.

Office 365 Migration Options: Making Your Plan

In Mike’s tried and tested process, you need to evaluate your environment to gain a deeper understanding of some early pre-migration issues which must be assessed. Here, you need to start thinking about how you want to execute the Office 365 migration, and create a regimented plan.

This planning stage should take priority above other pre-migration preparation, as this is the most crucial step for ensuring you have a seamless project that doesn’t disrupt end-users too much.

To get started, we recommend you gather a solid base analysis of these items:

  • Volumes of data
  • Usage of each workload
    • Exchange
    • OneDrive For Business
    • Teams
    • SharePoint
    • Yammer
    • Flow
    • Azure Applications
  • Old accounts and data
  • Service accounts, their type, and how they are being used

Once you’ve completed your data collection process, another essential step is conducting end-user interviews. You can do this with your tech leads, power users, or users that are eager to assist with providing this information.

More often than not, we find people are happy to help here. With our previous clients, we’ve organized a screen sharing session to get a deeper understanding of how people do their daily work, which we find is an effective way of uncovering additional information.

Once you have this usage data, you need to allocate a good window to do the work. With the data you collect, you will be able to make an educated decision on how much time you need.

A best practice here would be to use the data collected from the thought-leaders to inform your organization on what days they may experience disruptions. You also need to think about key stakeholders external to your company.

From all this work, you will also know what information needs to be communicated. We have produced some great communication templates which you can use for free here.

It’s important to note here that all of this planning can take a substantial amount of research and time, especially if you’re a larger organization. However, its outcome will ensure you gather all the information you need and also help you build a communication plan.

A challenge in this space is the people aspects, which you will likely run into right away. I did a lot of work on this with Change Management expert, MJ Flanagan to create our Method to the MADness Series.  It’s designed for many types of change but really focuses on helping IT through the changes they will likely run into with Mergers, Acquisitions & Divestitures.

What Office 365 migration options are straightforward?

Let’s start with the good news. Two workloads that are pretty straightforward are Exchange and OneDrive For Business.

Exchange is by far the easiest to migrate because it’s hit the point of industrialization; we’re fortunate we’ve had extensive experience working with Exchange due to its maturity and a lot of people are now very familiar with the migration needs.

Microsoft has made enhancements to its migration offering lately with the MRS preview program. This allows you to directly migrate mailboxes from one tenant to another, however, this program continues to be a sluggish preview that many struggle to get into because of the time and speed delay.

OneDrive for Business can migrate relatively easily and it’s a similar case with Exchange, the one difference is sharing links, which are an issue. However, not all is lost. Stay tuned because we have a blog coming up on this topic very soon.

Common issues experienced during an Office 365 migration project

In the podcast, the team also talked extensively about the issues that come up in an Office 365 Tenant to Tenant Migration. Depending on how many of these migrations you’ve executed in the past, some of these may be a real surprise to you. Let’s go through a rundown of some of the more complex items and issues you may run into during your project.

SharePoint Implementations

Another thing to always look out for is custom SharePoint implementations because they are challenging. During your interview process, you should reach out to the key SharePoint administrators and the site owners to find those hidden applications that may be in that environment. Once you’ve pulled that information you can then tie that into your project plan as that will be a task in itself. You may find several sub-projects here.

Microsoft Teams

Not all of the workloads will migrate or will only partially migrate. Microsoft Teams is a great example where it’s not possible to migrate everything yet. At the time of writing, in this workload, channel chat content and channels can migrate, however, metadata, like date and time stamps, can’t currently be written to the target. Files in the file tabs can be migrated using the SPO library. The ability to recreate the Teams and re-add its members is also present today.

Yammer and Flow

Two examples of systems you can’t migrate are Yammer and Flow because there isn’t a migration path. Flow is manual, and end-users must recreate those Flows. With Yammer, it doesn’t have supported APIs to execute this type of migration. These are both great examples of data you need to look at and add to your communication plan.

G-Suite Migrations

Generally, when working with clients or during migration projects, Exchange is a much simpler way of executing a tenant to Office 365 migration. G-suite migrations do exist, and they have a lot of challenges with speed and the sizes because they aren’t known as being ‘zippy migrations’, but there are definitely solutions that can get you there.

To Conclude

The key takeaway here is to get as much data as possible on the source environment. This includes looking at several data points so you can plan for as much of the user impact as possible and get the best possible outcome in these tricky projects.

In part two of this three-part series, we will delve deeper into the other complications you may encounter during an Office 365 migration and how to solve them. We’ll also be releasing an article on the post-migration Office 365 management challenges we often see with our clients, so stay tuned if you’d like a full rundown of challenges pre and post-migration.

This article was based on Mike’s conversation with Microsoft MVPs Steve Goodman and Jason Wynn for the All About 365 Podcast. We’ve collaborated with Steve on many Office 365 migration resources, including:

If you’d like to discuss your Office 365 migration options, the Quadrotech team can help with specialist experience in migrating email archives, PST files, and Enterprise Vault content, as well as tenant to tenant migrations. Contact us today for more information.